I am a natural-born worrier. I have a hard time shutting it off. If worrying were an olympic sport, I would get a gold medal.
I don’t know what you’re level of worry is, but chances are you are probably worried about something. It might be your marriage or your job. It could be your health or your finances. You might be worried about how your kids are doing in school or the kind of friends they are spending their time with.
You’re worry might also go beyond the happenings of your everyday life. You could be worried about the economy, the next election, ISIS, the environment, gun violence, etc. If we’re not careful worry can consume our every waking hour (and then some).
How can we approach our worries in a healthy and helpful way? Here are eight suggestions:
1. Listen to soothing music. There is great power in music. I have found that the right song can almost completely turn my mood around in a matter of minutes. If you’re experiencing a great deal of worry, try listening to some music that is soothing to you. Everyone’s taste is different. What works for one person might not work for another. Set up a playlist on your smartphone or create a channel on Pandora or Spotify. When you sense you’re worry level increasing use these resources to help you relax.
2. Do something physical. Increasing your endorphin levels helps to decrease your worry and stress. Do for a walk or run, do aerobics or yoga, go for a bike ride, lift weights, or any other kind of exercise that you enjoy. It will help you to relax and refocus.
3. Work on something else. Focusing on something else can help us come up with solutions to what it is worrying us. Science backs up this up. Working on mindless tasks frees up our mind to work on solutions to other, more complicated and deeper issues. If you’re worried about one thing, try working on another. The solution may come to you when you least expect it.
4. Rest. Sometimes we’re worried (or worried more than we ought to be) because we’re tired. I have found that a taking a break, taking a nap, or getting a good night’s sleep is just the thing to help me deal with my worry. It might be for you too.
5. Share what you’re worried about with a close family member or friend. Author and speaker John Ortberg gives this advice about worry: “Never worry alone.” I think he is spot on. Find a close family member or friend who is trustworthy and confide in them. Share what you’re worried about. Let them know upfront if it’s more helpful for them to simply listen to you or to listen and give you advice. Giving them this head’s up will help them help you.
6. Journal. Even if you have shared what you’re worried about with someone you care about and trust, it can still be helpful to write your feelings down in a journal. There are things you can share with your journal that you can’t or don’t feel comfortable sharing with your family and friends. Journaling is a great way to get your worries out. Here are some tips to help you journal effectively.
7. Meditate. You don’t have to be a religious person to experience the benefits of meditation. Pausing at some point in your day to sit in silence, be quiet, and meditate can help you gain confidence and clarity. I’ve learned a lot about the benefits and practices of meditation from author, speaker, and consultant Peter Bregman. Here is one of his articles that can help you get started with the practice of meditation.
8. Seek outside help. As helpful as the above tips are, sometimes they won’t be enough. There are times when our worry and problems require some additional help; outside and beyond the experience and expertise of our close family and friends. When that happens I want to encourage you to seek that help out. It may be in the form of a blog, a book, a podcast, a consultant, a mentor, a pastor, a support group, a counselor, or a combination of these. Sometimes one of the best ways you can help yourself is to ask someone for help. Don’t let shame or pride keep you trapped in a cage of worry and fear. There is no problem or worry that you are experiencing that someone else hasn’t experienced and overcome. Seek wise advice and together you can address your worries.
Worry is a shared human experience. No matter how “together” some people are, we have all dealt with worry. Don’t let worry derail you. Use these suggestions to deal with it in a healthy way.